While it is probably odd to outsiders, the rivalry between Ohio State and TTUN runs deep; really deep...
A friend of mine (who is an Ohio State grad) received a concerned call from his son's teacher one afternoon. In class that morning, his little guy had been asked to read from their text book, but insisted on skipping over the name of a certain Great Lake whenever it appeared in his assigned paragraphs. When the teacher asked why he was having trouble, the boy explained, "that's not a word we're allowed to say in our family."
Transcending the generational hatred, the legacy of Woody and Bo, or even the Rose Bowl births that have been connected to the game's winner over the years, there's a lot at stake when we reheat Thanksgiving leftovers and dig in for "The Game" and this Saturday's matchup is no different.
The Rivalry is Back
With Ohio State winning four straight against them--and thirteen out of the past fifteen--Harbaugh's return to Ann Arbor has changed the tone of the rivalry. While the game will always be significant, it has been hard to muster the same excitement in recent years. With Harbaugh returning to coach his alma mater, there is a genuine sense that the rivalry is back. To that end, he leads his team into Columbus this weekend looking for a signature win against Ohio State and the Buckeye's are committed to keeping him in his place.
Since expansion required a title game for the Big Ten conference, TTUN has not been a significant factor in deciding the champ. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin have been perennial contenders but the Maize and Blue have been stuck on the outside. In spite of a misstep against Iowa, a win on Saturday will earn TTUN their first trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. Something that they have, no doubt, been dying to play in since the game was created in 2011; and that Ohio State would like to keep them out of for another year--and maybe find their own way into with some help from Sparty.
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More than bragging rights and a chance at winning the conference, all of college football has their eyes on the four spots the College Football Playoff Committee will be awarding after the dust settles. While Alabama is the clear favorite nationally, it is equally clear that the loser of Saturday's game in Columbus will be out of the top four and destined to a nice--but meaningless--bowl game. Saturday's winner, however, will have a path to the College Football Playoff and might be the most threatening team the Tide could face on New Year's eve.
In a College landscape where the NCAA seems torn between crowning the "best" team and the CFP tournament winner--which isn't always the same--Saturday will go a long way to making the job of the Playoff Committee really simple or really difficult. If the Buckeye's lose or win in convincing fashion, the Playoff Committee can rest easily; but a nail-biter, where OSU looks lackluster but prevails, and there will be sleepless nights for the Playoff Committee.
While it is probably odd to outsiders, the rivalry between Ohio State and TTUN runs deep--and on the fourth Saturday of this November, a lot is riding on the outcome. That's why we will reheat Thanksgiving leftovers and watch...null